Weekly Reading Insights: 

Ki Teitzei


From The Masters Of Kabbalah and Chumash (5 Books of Moses)

13th century - "RambaN" - Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman

14th century - "Bachya" - Rabbi Bachya ben Asher

16th century - "Alsheich" - Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Tsfat

17th century - "Shelah" - Rabbi Yeshaiya Horowitz

18th century - "Ohr HaChayim" - Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar


"If a bird's nest chances to be before you…" [22:6-7]

In the Midrash of Rabbi Nechunya ben Hakanah [an early Kabbalah text] there is an interpretation with respect to releasing a mother bird when taking its nest, which states that there is a secret in this commandment. "Rabbi Rechimaie said, What is the meaning of that which is written, You shall in any wise let the dam go [verse 7] with the honor of that 'understanding' [here used in a Kabalistic sense] which is termed 'the mother of the world', as it is written, Yes 'im' (if) you call for understanding. [Proverbs 2:3. The Sefer Habahir obviously intimates that the word be read eim (mother) thus suggesting: "the mother [of the world] is called 'understanding'"]. And what is the meaning of the phrase, and the young, take to you? [verse 7]. Said Rabbi Rechimaie, It means those young that she raised. And what are they? They are the seven days of [the Festival of] Tabernacles, and the laws of the seven days of the week, etc." Thus this commandment alludes to a great matter, and therefore the reward for the observance thereof is abundant, [as it is said], that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days. [verse 7].


Rabbeinu Bachya

"… It shall be that the firstborn which she shall bear shall succeed to the name of his dead brother." [25:6]

The plain meaning of the verse is the kabbalistic approach. The word shem in this verse does not literally mean "name", i.e., that the child will bear the name of the deceased brother, rather the Torah speaks of the soul of the new infant which will replace that of the departed brother. The words "so that his name will not be blotted out from the Jewish people" mean that if the deceased would not have a replacement on earth his name would die out. When the Talmud in Yevamot 24 understands the words "the firstborn which she shall bear" to mean that the reference is to the firstborn son of the mother of these brothers, this is not the plain meaning of the verse. The sages only use this sequence as implying that the oldest surviving brother is first in line to "marry" (levirate marriage) the widow of the deceased brother. This is the reason the word bechor (firstborn) appears in our verse.

The institution of the levirate marriage is of great value to the soul of the departed. It is a known fact that a soul derives added enjoyment when it is allowed to re-incarnate as a member of the family it had once belonged to, seeing it already feels that it belongs. This is why the Torah writes in its introduction of this subject: "when brothers dwell together" (verse 4). Our sages (Yevamot 17) interpret these words as meaning that the rule of the levirate marriage applies only if both brothers lived on earth at one and the same time, however, briefly. If the youngest brother had been born after the oldest had died (or any other brother had died) then this mystical link does not exist between these brothers and the legislation does not apply to them.

The underlying reason for chalitzah, i.e., the removal of the shoe of the surviving brother who refuses to perform the levirate marriage with his sister-in-law, the widow of his brother, is that his refusal is considered an act of cruelty towards the soul of his deceased brother. The removal of his shoe is a symbolic act signifying severance of reciprocal feelings of brotherliness. The very expression chalitshah, is similar to Hoseah 5:6: "the Lord withdrew from them" (the Israelites who vainly tried to mollify Him with their sacrifices) seeing they had betrayed the Lord. Also the expression na'alo normally translated as "his shoe" has a dual meaning, is the same as the word na'al, "locked out," as in "locked the door", The surviving brother had "locked out" the soul of his deceased brother.

The concept of transmigration of souls is an ancient tradition having its root already at the time of Moses. In Sefer Habahir #195 you find this expressed, "why do we encounter the apparent paradox of the righteous experiencing a life of difficulties whereas the wicked appear to enjoy a life of ease? The reason is that the person whom we respect as a righteous individual was a wicked individual in his youth, and is only now being punished for this."

But do we punish a person for what he did in a period of his life when he was still immature? Did not Rabbi Simon say that the heavenly tribunal does not punish anyone under the age of 20? To this Rabbi (Nechuniah?) replied that he had not meant immaturity in his present life on earth, but sins committed when the soul of this individual now leading a blameless life had been in another body on a previous occasion.



"Do not take interest from your brother...although you may take interest from an outsider...." [23:20-21]

The deeper reason that imposition of interest charges when dealing with a gentile are permitted or even mandatory, whereas they are forbidden in dealing with fellow Jews, lies in the different life philosophies.

The gentile believes in hashgacha kellalit, i.e. mazal and predetermination, limiting the Creator's options by this very belief. The Jew believes in a totally free Creator, in hashgacha peratit, personal Divine Providence as demonstrated by the events at the Exodus and the belief in creation ex nihilo. We believe-and it is a cornerstone of our faith-that G-d may greatly enrich the poor or impoverish the rich at will.

The imposition of fixed interest charges make a person feel that his blessings, i.e. his economic wealth, will follow a measurable predetermined path. Such a person will tend to lose his faith in the freedom of the Creator to do His will, he will not feel grateful to the Creator for his success, but ascribe it to his own calculations. For a Jew there is hardly anything that can conflict more with his basic faith. Therefore the Torah forbids the charging of interest or the payment of interest between Jews. It is due to such considerations that we find what appear at first glance greatly exaggerated condemnations by our sages of people who loan with interest. They go so far as to stigmatize a Jew who lends to a fellow Jew with interest as someone who cannot truly refer to the G-d of Israel as his G-d, seeing that he denies such a central platform of Jewish faith. This is because of the juxtaposition of Leviticus 25, 37, "Do not give him your money against interest," and "I am the Lord your G-d who took you out of Egypt."

In other words, anyone who is aware of the nature of G-d as demonstrated during the Exodus, cannot base his dealings with Jews on interest charges.



"If a man will have a stubborn and rebellious son, who does not hearken to the voice of his father and the voice of his mother, and they discipline him, but he does not hearken to them." (Deut. 21:18)

If we do not properly observe the commandment: "Do not allow any of your enemies to survive," (Deut. 20:16) then Israel the first born son may turn out to become a "wayward and rebellious son". Raising a son who turns out to be wayward and defiant is the result of our not having waged the war against the evil urge with all our might.

The Zohar describes this passage in approximately the following way: Upon being given this passage of the Torah, Moses asked G-d how a Jewish father and mother could be expected to take their own son to the Supreme Court in order to have him executed? This whole passage should be deleted from the Torah! G-d explained to him that it was included to enable us to receive a reward for studying it, though it would always remain in the realm of hypotheses only.

At that time G-d called upon Yofi-e-l, the "prince" of Torah, who asked Moses to allow him to explain the meaning of the passage. He explained that the word "man" at the beginning of the verse, "If a man has…" refers to G-d Himself, who is known to us as a "man of war". (see Ex. 15:3) The word "son" in our verse refers to the people of Israel, G-d's firstborn son. The words stubborn and rebellious are an allusion to the verse, "Israel has balked like a stubborn cow". (Hosea 4:16)

The words "...he does not hearken to the voice of his father and the voice of his mother..." refer to G-d, the father, and the Community of Israel, the mother, respectively. Such concepts are alluded to by Solomon in the verse, "Do not abandon the teachings of your mother". (Proverbs 1:8) The words, "they discipline him" are reminiscent of: "G-d warned Israel and Judah through all His prophets and seers: 'Turn back from your wicked ways...'" (Kings II 17:13) The words here: "…and did not listen to them" are parallel to the words "...and did not listen to them" in the same verse in Kings II.

The Torah continues:

His father and mother will seize him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the public place of his community, etc. (Deut. 21:19)

We must ask ourselves: Why did the Torah not write "their city" instead of "his city?" Why did the Torah not write "their community" instead of "his community"? The subjects of his city and his community are the city of G-d and the community of Community of Israel respectively. The Torah alludes to the highest Tribunal in the Celestial Regions whence supervision of man's activities on earth is exercised…

Immediately after Moses had heard all this, he understood that all the exiles the Jewish people would have to suffer in the course of their history can be traced back to the original sin committed by Adam.



Ohr HaChayim

"And they shall fine him one hundred shekalim." [22:19]

This is an allusion to the one hundred benedictions each one of us is meant to recite every day as explained in Menachot 43, based on Deut. 10:12: "and now what, [mah] does the Lord G-d ask of you, etc." The Talmud interpreted the word mah as equivalent to meah (hundred), i.e. G-d asks that we recite one hundred benedictions. That verse spoke about a penitent as we know from Breshit Rabbah 21 that the word veatah or atah always refers to a penitent sinner.

"and the elders shall give (these 100 benedictions) to the Father of the virgin-bride, i.e. to G-d, etc., because he (the Israelite) has slandered the virgin-bride of Israel." This is a reference to the shechinah, the Divine Presence, which includes all of Israel, the tenth emanation [popularly known as keter. Ed.] or virtue, called the oral Torah, a concept familiar to students of the Kabbalah.

"and she shall be his wife, and he must not divorce her as long as he lives."
Although the commandment to study Torah is normally understood to involve setting aside certain parts of the day and night for study, a person who has rejected Torah study previously and who has thereby slighted the Torah must henceforth occupy himself with honoring the Torah all day and all night, i.e. "he cannot send her away as long as he lives."

Vayikra Rabba 25:1 states that if a person was in the habit of studying Torah for an hour daily before committing a sin, then part of his rehabilitation is to study two hours daily. This is applicable to people whose sins did not consist of insulting the Torah. In order to make up for the insult to Torah which the person in our paragraph is guilty of he has to henceforth devote himself exclusively to Torah.

22:20-21 "But if the matter was true, etc." If it turns out that the Torah which this person studied and which he examined and found defective, was taught by heretics, such as the Torah taught by Tzadok and Bayssus, such Torah does not give man strength but exerts a negative influence on him. G-d commands to stone such a "Torah" to death until it is completely dead, as per our verse. Whereas the teachers of this kind of Torah employed words spoken by G-d, i.e. the text of the Torah, the intention of the teacher teaching it disqualifies it. We have been taught in Gittin 48 that if a heretic painstakingly writes an entire Torah scroll it must be burned forthwith, as he did something despicable, etc. When the Torah concludes our paragraph with the words: "you shall wipe out evil from your midst," it refers to someone who deliberately distorts the meaning of the Torah.

22:22 "If a man be found having intercourse with a woman married to someone else, etc." The verse is best understood with reference to Sanhedrin 59 that if a Gentile engages in Torah study he is guilty of the death penalty. The Torah is already betrothed to her husband the Israelite, she is his bride.

"Both of them shall die, etc." both the Gentile studying the Torah and the "Torah" itself. This means that such "Torah" instead of spreading its spiritual light will darken the horizon of the Gentile who studies it. It will not be perceived as possessing life-giving powers as when it is studied by an Israelite. Torah, which according to Proverbs 4:22 is a source of life to those who encounter it, will not prove to be a source of life to pagans who study it but the reverse.



Ramban - credits
Adapted from the 13th century classic by the illustrious scholar, philosopher and defender of the faith, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman-known as 'RAMBAN' or 'Nachmanides', a master kabbalist in his own right and a major link in the transmission of Jewish mysticism-based on the excellent annotated English translation, Nachmanides on the Torah, by Rabbi Dr. Charles B. Chavel

Bachya - credits
Selected with permission from the seven-volume English edition of The Torah Commentary of Rabbeinu Bachya, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk. Rabbi Bachya ben Asher [1255-1340] of Saragosa, Spain, was the outstanding pupil of Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet (the "Rashba"), a main disciple of Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (the "Ramban"). Several books have been written about the Kabballah-based portions of R. Bachya's commentary.

Alsheich - credits
Adapted from Torat Moshe - the 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech, the "Preacher of Zefat" on the Torah, as translated and condensed in the English version of Eliyahu Munk)

Shelah - credits
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz was born in Prague around the year 1565. He served as Rabbi of Cracow and other congregations before he was appointed as the Rabbi of the community of Frankfurt on Main in the year 1610. In 1916, Rabbi Horowitz moved to Prague where he became the Chief Rabbi of the city. He moved to Eretz Yisrael about 1621. He was rabbi in Jerusalem and in Tiberias, where he died in or about 1630. In addition to his magnus opus, Shenei Luchot HaBrit, he also compiled an edition of the prayer-book with a comprehensive commentary. Many of his innovations, including his formulation of the Kol Nidrei prayer, have become part and parcel of the Ashkenazi Siddur.

Ohr HaChayim - credits
Selected with permission from the five-volume English edition of Ohr HaChaim: the Torah Commentary of Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
The holy Rabbi Chayim ben Moses Attar was born in Sale, Western Morocco, on the Atlantic in 1696. His immortal commentary on the Five Books Of Moses, Or Hachayim, was printed in Venice in 1741, while the author was on his way to the Holy Land. He acquired a reputation as a miracle worker, hence his title "the holy," although some apply this title only to his Torah commentary.

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